How would Troy Murphy and Johan Petro affect the Pistons' rotation?

Although the Pistons-Nets-Nuggets Carmelo Anthony trade appears on hold for a while, the Pistons should be rooting for it to get done sooner than later. When the deal is completed won’t affect the biggest benefit of the trade – the financial flexibility that would come with shedding Richard Hamilton’s contract – but the sooner a trade happens, the sooner the Pistons would improve on the court.

All season, the Pistons have had rotation problems mainly because they’ve been way overstaffed on the wings and way understaffed up front. This trade alleviates both of those problems, although admittedly Murphy and Petro are not anything to get particularly excited about. I do, however, think the Pistons would be an even more flexible team and potentially a playoff team if Murphy gets back on track after posting career-lows across the board to this point in New Jersey.

Here’s a positional breakdown of how the team would look should this trade get done (please get it done!).

Point guard

One spot on the team that should see no big impact because of the trade. Rodney Stuckey is still the likely starting point guard. Tracy McGrady looks to be settling into the backup spot (at least partially, he could see minutes on the wings as well), and Will Bynum will fight for whatever minutes are left over. One positive, however, is that if Tayshaun Prince is eventually traded as well, McGrady’s ability to play the point allows the team to play Stuckey at shooting guard more often.

Minutes breakdown prediction:

  • Stuckey -32
  • McGrady – 12
  • Bynum – 4

Shooting guard

Ben Gordon has already assumed the starting shooting guard spot, but with Hamilton still breathing down his neck, Gordon’s still played more than 30 minutes just four times in his eight starts since the change. Moving Hamilton would mercifully end John Kuester‘s "play whoever’s kinda not playing that bad" strategy that he’s employed most of the past two seasons. This move, more than anything, is the team telling Gordon, "You’re our guy." No more excuses, no more "Kuester isn’t using Gordon right!" cries after poor performances. If Gordon is a starting caliber shooting guard in this league, he needs to return to the productivity that made him a sought after free agent after he left Chicago.

But let’s not pretend like Gordon has no competition at the spot, because he does. I think it’s safe to say Pistons fans love Austin Daye and his potential, especially after his best game as a pro against Philadelphia on Saturday. If Gordon doesn’t produce and Daye builds on that performance with a prolonged stretch of strong play, the Pistons will have their second shooting guard positional controversy of the season.

Minutes breakdown prediction:

  • Gordon -30
  • Daye – 14
  • Stuckey – 4

Small forward

Small forward is another spot that will remain relatively unfazed by the trade. Tayshaun Prince is still the starter and is still, for better or worse, the Pistons’ primary option on offense. That’s not all bad — Prince has quietly put together a nice season after a rough first few weeks. His attitude and body language have improved and his communication with younger teammates has improved. Prince is the crafty, intelligent player he’s always been, and if he can impart some of that wisdom to Daye, Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko when he returns, the team will be much better in the future.

McGrady will get some of the backup minutes when he’s not backing up the point and Daye will get the rest.

Minutes breakdown prediction:

  • Prince -33
  • McGrady – 8
  • Daye – 7

Power forward

Here’s where things get interesting. With the Pistons, I look at the PF and C spots as one position basically, where four and maybe five guys will share minutes. They have no one who is truly a center, so the additions of Murphy and Petro don’t really change the fact that they’re going to still get worked defensively by dominant frontcourt players. But Murphy, in particular, represents an upgrade over Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox, so his addition to the rotation should, at the least, lead to better rebounding numbers.

Charlie Villanueva will probably continue to start. He hasn’t played fantastic lately, but he’s still won the job and Murphy is having a bad season, so he shouldn’t be considered a presumed starter or anything. There’s also the option to put Monroe back in the starting lineup, an option I’d actually like to see, but I doubt it would happen.

My guess is Murphy/Villanueva become the new Rip/Gordon. One will usually play, one will usually sit, and it will be based primarily on who gets it going on a game-to-game basis. Long-term, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Murphy move into the starting lineup by season’s end, especially if the Pistons are contending for the eighth playoff spot by the time April rolls around.

Minutes breakdown prediction:

  • Villanueva -26
  • Murphy – 11
  • Monroe – 11

Center

Ben Wallace is still the heart and soul of this team, at least in the eyes of the fans, and I have no problems with him starting until his career ends (barring the Pistons trading for Dwight Howard or something). But if Murphy returns to form and if Monroe continues to develop, I also have no problem with Wallace’s role continuing to shrink.

Minutes breakdown prediction:

  • Wallace -20
  • Murphy – 12
  • Monroe – 12
  • Petro – 4

The Pistons will continue to boast one of the worst defensive frontcourts in the league, there’s no denying that. And Wilcox and/or Maxiell may prove to be better options than Petro in that coveted fifth big man spot. But for now, if Petro indeed is included in the trade, the Pistons might as well give him a shot to see what they have.

Murphy will help them rebound a little better hopefully, and Monroe will hopefully challenge Wallace or Villanueva for a starting spot by season’s end.

Although the more balanced roster isn’t going to propel the Pistons into Eastern Conference contenders, it could potentially do enough to allow the team to sneak into the playoffs, which should make Joe Dumars happy, even if fans would prefer to get the lottery pick instead.

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Tags: Austin Daye Ben Gordon Ben Wallace Charlie Villanueva Chris Wilcox Greg Monroe Jason Maxiell John Kuester Jonas Jerebko Richard Hamilton Tayshaun Prince Tracy McGrady Will Bynum

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